Internet blogs have become an important platform for the discussion of many scientiﬁc issues, including climate change. Blogs, and in particular the comment sections of blogs, also play a major role in the dissemination of contrarian positions that question mainstream climate science. The eﬀect of this content on people’s attitudes is not fully understood. In particular, it is unknown how the interaction between the content of blog posts and blog comments aﬀects readers’ attitudes. We report an experiment that orthogonally varied those two variables using blog posts and comments that either did, or did not, support the scientiﬁc consensus on climate change. We ﬁnd that beliefs are partially shaped by readers’ perception of how widely an opinion expressed in a blog post appears to be shared by other readers. The perceived social consensus among readers, in turn, is determined by whether blog comments endorse or reject the contents of a post. When comments reject the content, perceived reader consensus is lower than when comments endorse the content. The results underscore the importance of perceived social consensus on opinion formation.
- Social media
- Science communication
- Online disinformation
- Perceived consensus
Lewandowsky, S., Cook, J., Fay, N., & Gignac, G. E. (2019). Science by social media: Attitudes towards climate change are mediated by perceived social consensus. Memory and Cognition, 47(8), 1445-1456. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-019-00948-y